(Raves and Lamentations on The Eraserheads Reunion Concert)
“Ok pa ba kayo dyan?” This was one of the very rare moments Ely Buendia spoke onstage (and this was mid-way through the first set). It would have been the perfect question to ask himself. Was he still fine? His calm demeanor onstage all throughout the first 15 songs belied the unstable mental and physical state he was in. We didn’t know his mother just died 2 days ago and we did not know how extremely pressured they were to push through with the concert with just less than a week’s preparations.
Ten minutes before Lally Buendia (Ely’s sister) went onstage to announce that the show has to be cut short, our friend Di said she was feeling weird about something. “Kinakabahan ako. Ewan ko basta kinakabahan ako.”, she said over and over again I almost strangled her. I jokingly told her she’s not going to get raped on our way back to QC and just please cut the crap. But to our great shock, the unthinkable happened – there are no more 2nd and 3rd sets. Ely had to be rushed to the hospital due to severe “emotional and physical stress”. Raimund took the stage first, his voice a bit shaky it sounded like he’s going to break down any minute. He handed the mic over to Buddy and Ely’s sister for the formal announcement that would break all of our hearts. It took a while for the disbelief to subside. We left the field after an hour of debate and “pagmumura”.
Me, my three friends and the rest of the 20,000 ‘Heads fans and curious folks who flocked The Fort last night eagerly waited for this event for almost two months. This would have been the biggest and most successful concert this year and not to forget – the most remarkable. There were no major promotional events, no tv and radio commercials, no posters - just plain word-of-mouth and incessant blogging. They started selling tickets Wednesday and, well they just easily sold out. This just goes to show how much the people missed this foursome. The ‘Heads faithful are very much alive. Well just imagine how many more people would have flocked if the concert was really free (as was originally planned before the “Dastardly Dementors” ruined the tobacco company’s plans).
There was really no sign of impending doom at the start of the show. The whole thing was unbelievably organized. Entrance and exit points were well marked and people promptly fell in line. There were no pushing or shouting . And to me and my friends’ great relief – there were no JJ’s ( Jumping Jologs aka Killer Orcs aka Goth wannabes) in the area. Actually the crowd were mostly students and yuppies (mostly people from Peyups). “Parang isang malaking malaking UP fair lang ‘to”, a former dormmate said. And to think hours before I was fretting about getting mercilessly pushed about and having my belongings robbed off me.
So much for the drama….
How did the whole thing start off?
The crowd started going wild during the ten-minute countdown. That was one of the longest ten minutes ever. The excitement can hardly be contained anymore. And then the lights were on, the magnificent sparks flew, and then - Raim’s drumbeats. I always knew they’d kick off with Alapaap. That unforgettable bass line that followed immediately was more than enough to get each and every one screaming and jumping. Each ‘Head got their spotlight –the hyperkinetic Raymund Marasigan (donning a lady’s wig) on drums, the super-cool surferdude Marcus Adoro (my favorite) on lead guitars, the calm and steady-looking Buddy Zabala on bass and of course, the enigmatic and deeply-troubled Ely Buendia on vocals and rhythm guitar. Together at last after six friggin’ years. I was very lucky to have caught them perform twice during my freshman year at UP Diliman. I was always at the front row before, this time I was at the Gen Ad section where I could hardly see their faces. I didn’t really care much just as long as the wide screens were there and the audio system was just directly in front of us.
They sounded really really good. Hands down. It’s as if they never disbanded and just grew even more musically sophisticated. “Alapaap” did not disappoint. If you are a fan of the ‘Heads, you really know that they have the tendency na “magkalat” during live shows. They’re just performing in the spirit of fun and you could feel it. Those were the heady days.
A quick succession of melt-in-your-ear old pop hits followed (mostly from their Ultra, Circus and Cutterpillow albums). There was the very popular college favorite “Ligaya”, then came “Sembreak” (during which UP students and alumni screamed Go UP! as familiar campus sights were flashed on the big screen). “Hey Jay” was just as engaging as well. “They tried…They really tried… to tell us we’re too OLD. Too old to really be … BOLD.” Ely spoke these first few lines from “Toyang” – a song reportedly about a former flame with whom he had a love child. This song was one of the major highlights of the first set.
Everything would have been really OK except that they just don’t talk to the crowd. There is total dead air in between songs. We were half-expecting Raims to jump up and just grab the mic from Ely. All they do instead is tune up their instruments a bit before hitting off with another pop ditty. People chanted “GROUP HUG!!” and “Magsalita naman kayo!!!” to the band to ward off the increasing tension among the four of them. Apart from the really great 1st set of playlist, the silence in between is really creepy. They went on with “Fruitcake”, “Kama Supra”, and for the rock ballad “Kailan” Ely invited Jazz Nicolas of Itchyworms to play the keyboards and he just let the crowd sing the last part: “Kailan ako lalaya sa anino ng pag-iisa, Mga rehas lang ang tanaw. Nanginginig sa seldang maginaaaaaw”. “With A Smile” became quite an emotional piece that my friend Di almost burst into tears. For “Shake Yer Head” Ely was so hyper he was literally shaking his head a lot and even let his oversized aviator shades fly off his face. If Ely was hyper at one point, Buddy was frowning over a slight malfunction of his bass effects.
Three more pop favorites were sung: “Kaliwete” (with lots of Macoy’s guitars), “Huwag kang Matakot” and the walang-kamatayang “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong”. The first set ended with an obscure “Lightyears” (from Fruitcake). Most people were asking: “What song is that?” It certainly wasn’t the type of ending song they’d want to hear but it was great nonetheless. Ely afterwards just held his guitar in one hand and kept looking sideways (as if looking for someone to take it off his hand). Then the lights started to go out one by one, and the only thing shown on the screen is the big timer once again counting to 20 minutes before the 2nd set – that would never be.
Raymund, on his Subsandwich mailing list said that they prepared three sets for what he previously called the “Magical Mystery Show”. “The first was just a warm up. The remaining two was going to be the fun part. There were more videos and light shows and pyro in store for everyone.” True enough, their more popular songs were not yet played : the riff-driven favorite of mine – “Superproxy”, the cult-favorite anthem “Pare Ko”, the wild “Pop Machine, the likewise controversial “Tikman”, the upbeat “Magasin”, the beautiful “Torpedo”, the weird “Spoliarium”, the sappy “Hard to Believe” and another controversial, “Alkohol”. I was expecting they would end with the bittersweet “Ang Huling El Bimbo” or the more emotional “Para sa Masa”.
After all the disappointment, the question now remains: “Will there be a Part 2?” There better be. Raims said it himself during one of the numerous news interviews that followed afterwards. “Babawi kami.” No word yet on the date or place. They just wanted to assure that Ely gets the rest he deserved. In the end the people wouldn’t really care if they reunite for real (a highly unlikely possibility) or not. They just want to see the foursome perform as a whole again even for just one marvelous night.
To cap a truly disappointing night, we headed to our favorite ktv tambayan Uncle Tat’s at Matalino St. We sang every Eraserhead song we can find in the catalog and screamed our hearts out until 4:00 in the morning. We did not want to feel really defeated after all.